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News and Updates
Strongsville Police Honored for Making Roadways Safer
Strongsville Police received four awards from the Cuyahoga County DUI/Reckless Driving Reduction Task Force at a ceremony Jan. 27.
Patrolmen Derek Apo was recognized for issuing the most seatbelt citations in the department, while Patrolman Jeff Steving was honored for the most OVI arrests. Steving was among the top four officers in the county for impaired driving arrests.
SPD also received the Most Traffic Safety Outreach Award, due largely to the efforts of Marie McManus, DARE coordinator and Safe Kids liaison, and the Exemplary Service to the Task Force Award.
University Hospitals, lead agency for the Greater Cleveland Safe Kids/Safe Communities Coalition, recognized indivisuals and departments at the gathering of more than 150 safety officials from the 41 departments that make up the task force.
The task force works to combat impaired and aggressive driving through enforcement efforts and public education.
The IRS is NOT Calling You: It’s a Scam, Police Say
The caller says he’s from the IRS and he’s getting angry. If you don’t send the money you owe right away, they’ll have you arrested – or maybe even come to your house.
Don’t believe it.
IRS scams are widespread this year and claiming victims across the country. Lately, the phony “agents” have started harassing and threatening residents, trying to scare them into sending money or providing a bank account or credit card information.
“We’ve had several reports of IRS scams,” Strongsville Deputy Police Chief Mark Fender said. “It’s a problem everywhere.”
Making it worse, the IRS reports, is that the con artists sometimes use phone apps that change their caller ID to make it look like the call is actually coming from the agency.
Don’t be intimidated, police urge. The IRS doesn’t not make threats, doesn’t demand immediate payment, and doesn’t specify how the payment should be made.
Here’s how the IRS says residents can protect themselves from the scams:
“The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:
1. Call to demand immediate payment, nor will we call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do: If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS a 1 (800) 829-1040. The IRS workers can hellp you with a payment issue.
If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to believe you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1 (800) 336-4484 or www.tigta.gov.
Remember, took, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issues. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type 'scam' in the search box"
In a related scam, a fake IRS agent will call to say you have a refund coming -- all they need is your bank account number so they can transfer the money.
Strongsville police warn residents to NEVER give personal information to a caller, no matter how legitimate he or she sounds.
Be on the Lookout: Residents Report a Rash of Catalytic Converter Thefts
Police are asking residents to be extra vigilant in the wake of a series of catalytic converter thefts.
A number of catalytic converters have been reported stolen from vehicles in the last few weeks, especially in the apartment complex area on Whitney Road.
“Best thing is to always be alert and vigilant,” Deputy Chief Mark Fender said. “When you’re out and about, watch to see if you notice people loitering in and around parking lots, or a person in a car for a prolonged amount of time.”
It only takes a few minutes for a thief to slide under a vehicle and cut off the emission-control device, which contains enough precious metal to make it valuable to a scrap dealer.
Trucks and SUVs, which sit higher off the ground, are often targeted, but smaller vehicles, including Honda Accords, were also hit recently on Whitney Road.
Fender advises apartment residents to park in a well-lit area and to make a point of looking into the parking lot frequently and noting anything out of the ordinary.
Report any suspicious activity to police at (440) 238-7373.
These Two Scams are Still Making the Rounds: Beware
A Strongsville woman got a call recently from someone she believed to be her grandson.
He was in jail in another state. Could she please wire him money?
She did, then later discovered her grandson was fine. It was a scam, and she’d sent $2,000 to a stranger.
She’s not alone. Another Strongsville woman got a similar call, and agreed to go purchase $8,500 in gift cards to help get her grandson out of jail. She read the numbers to someone over the phone in her effort to help.
Also still prevalent is the Craigslist scam, where a buyer sends a check for a much higher amount than the sale price of an item.
An example: A woman was selling a table for $200, but the buyer sent a cashier’s check for $2,945. When she contacted him, he said it was a mistake. He asked her to cash the check, keep her $200 and return the rest in the form of Moneypak cards.
Fortunately, she got suspicious and instead went to Strongsville police, who told her to tear up the large check – it was phony.
This scam often works, though, because by the time the seller is notified by the bank that the check was fake, he or she has already sent money back to the “buyer.” The honest seller, who was trying to do the right thing, is out the cash.
Strongsville residents have been targeted by both scams in recent months.
“We want to make sure residents are aware of these scams so they can avoid becoming victims,” Deputy Chief Mark Fender said.
Criminals are Busy at Holiday Time -- Don't Become a Victim
Criminals look forward to the holiday season like everyone else – but for different reasons.
Stores are crowded, people are distracted, and they’re carrying cash, credit cards and lots of gifts. What could be better for a thief?
Protect yourself during the holiday season, Strongsville Police urge, by taking a few common-sense precautions.
Guard your wallet and purse – Picture this: You’re riding the escalator at the mall, your purse on your shoulder. Quick as a wink, the person on the step behind you reaches into your unzipped purse and slips your wallet out. It’s happened.
How about this: You’re standing inches from your cart, with your purse in the child seat, and you turn your head to look for an item on a shelf. While you’re looking away, a thief walks by and lifts your wallet. That’s happened, too.
Always make sure your purse is zipped or snapped shut, and never put it in a shopping cart. Men, you might want to carry your wallet in a front pocket or a zipped jacket pocket. It really does take only a few seconds for a nimble-fingered thief to grab your cash and credit cards.
Don’t leave goodies in the car – You already know this, but it’s really, really risky to leave bags of merchandise in your car, even if you’ve hidden them under a coat or (you think) under the seat. Put your purchases in the trunk.
And do it before you move your car to your next stop, not after. If someone is watching, he can break a window, unlatch the trunk and make off with your newly bought presents. When you’re shopping at night, it’s a good idea to park in a well-lit area, too.
At home, too – It’s the week before Christmas and you’ve got the gifts wrapped and under the tree – maybe some cool electronics, a new phone, some gift cards. Well, guess what? Burglars know that.
Now is the time to be extra careful about burglary prevention – turn lights on, leave a TV playing, double check the door and window locks, illuminate the outside of your home. If it’s dark when you get home from work, put some lights on a timer. Dusk is a prime time for break-ins.
Giving till it hurts – Fake charity scams skyrocket during the holiday season. Take a minute to make sure the charity that’s calling, sending you a letter or email, or knocking on your door is legitimate before you make a donation. And as always, NEVER give a credit card number or other information to anyone who calls on the phone. Make your donation by mail or on the organization’s website.
Turn in Unneeded Prescription Drugs Sept. 27
Strongsville Police will collect unneeded medication from residents during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Saturday, Sept. 27.
Officers will be in front of the police station on Westwood Drive between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. so residents can turn in prescription drugs (pills only; no liquids, please) they no longer need. You need not get out of your car.
It’s the second take-back of the year. In April, Strongsville police collected 225 pounds of unneeded prescription medication.
Sgt. Mike Grywalsky said the department turns over the medication to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which will destroy it.
He said many people find themselves left with prescription medication after a parent or other family member passes away.
Turning in the pills rather than throwing them in the trash or flushing them keeps them from falling into the wrong hands, and also from polluting landfills and waterways.
Traffic Unit will Install, Check Carseats
Concerned your child's car safety seat isn't installed correctly? Many are not, statistics show.
The Strongsville Police Department's Traffic Unit will help. The officers provide free inspections of safety seats to make sure they'll protect your child in a crash. Call (440) 580-3230 to make an appointment.
Also, Safe Kids has some tips on buying and installing carseats. Check the website for more information on that and other safety issues.
Police Nab Suspects Minutes after Thefts
Strongsville officers made quick arrests in two unrelated incidents that took place four days apart.
On Aug. 11, a male reported that someone had just stolen his laptop while he was at the Strongsville Library.
An officer looking for the suspect spotted someone matching the description outside the Dairy Queen on Pearl Road. When the suspect saw the officer, he fled to the DQ restroom, where he was arrested.
Travis Garner, 24, of Strongsville is charged with theft. The laptop was returned to the victim.
On Aug. 15, a man who was behind bars minutes after allegedly stealing a van from the Center Towing lot, located on Pearl and Westwood, at the end of the Police Station driveway.
Police said Nicholas DeVictor, 22, of North Ridgeville, jumped over a fence and took off north on Pearl in a green minivan. A witness reported the theft, and the suspect drew more attention to himself when he hit another vehicle on Pearl Road.
Detective Lt. John Janowski said DeVictor abandoned the van outside the Pikeview Motel and started walking. Officers arrested him near Valley Parkway.
DeVictor, who had been in jail here on a second-degree misdemeanor charge for possession of drug paraphernalia, not faces a felony grand theft charge.
You Can Protect Your Home from Burglars: Here's How
There are steps you can take to make your house less of a target for burglars, Strongsville Police say:
Check Your Locks
In many burglaries, thieves enter through an unlocked door or window. Commit to locking your doors and windows every time you leave your home.
Secure Obvious Entrances
Most burglars enter through the ground floor, often using front or back doors or sliding patio windows. Concentrate your efforts on making these as secure as possible. Consider adding 1-inch single-cylinder deadbolt locks and strike plates supported by 3-inch screws to every door.
Make windows more secure by placing a block, like a piece of wood, in the track. Also, consider placing a security film on windows to make them harder to break.
Make Your Place Look Occupied
Burglars target residences where no one is home. Create the illusion you’re home by setting inside lights, TVs and stereos on a timer; parking your spare vehicle in the driveway instead of the garage; and asking a neighbor to collect your mail each day so it doesn’t stack up.
Light the Night
Install motion-activated lights outside your home to put intruders in the spotlight.
Ditch the Hidden Key
That spare key under the doormat is a free pass to a would-be thief. Instead, give a key to a neighbor you trust. If possible, also ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your home while you’re away. If you go out of town, ask the Police Department to check on your home, as well.
Consider Getting an Alarm System
In a national survey of more than 400 career burglars, 83 percent said they would determine if an alarm was present before attempting a break-in. A home security system with an audible alarm can be a powerful deterrent.
Don’t Forget the Garage
Stealing from a garage is considered a burglary, and an open garage door is an open invitation for a thief – especially if you have valuables near the front of a garage. Don’t leaving alcohol in plain view. Also, don’t forget to lock your car doors, even if it’s parked in the garage. Get in the habit of keeping your garage door closed, even if you’re home.
Start a neighborhood watch program, or rejuvenate your old one. Contact Sgt. Lee Colegrove at (440) 580-3230 for more information. Each zone of the city has an officer assigned to it, and he or she would be happy to attend your annual homeowners’ association meeting. Please feel free to contact one of these officers for guidance.
Report Suspicious Activity
Crimes can be prevented if residents who see suspicious activity report it right away. You know what goes on in your neighborhood better than anyone else. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, call the Police Department at (440) 238-7373 – or call 911 if it’s an emergency – so officers can check it out.
Fireworks Aren't Just Dangerous, They're Illegal
Strongsville Police will be looking for people who violate the city's fireworks ordinance this Fourth of July weekend.
Strongsville's codified ordinances prohibit anyone from possessing fireworks, and also make it illegal to "discharge, ignite or expode" fireworks.
Deputy Chief Mark Fender said officers will investigate fireworks reports and cite those found violating the law.
The ordinance says violators could face a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
Be Helmet Smart
Strongsville police will be handing out “tickets” to young bicycle riders this summer – but not for breaking the law.
Officers will be on the lookout for kids wearing bike helmets, and will reward them with a citation of congratulations and a coupon for 25 percent off a frozen yogurt and toppings at Lemonberry.
It’s part of AAA’s Smart Helmet program, which seeks to reward youngsters for staying safe on their bikes.
Kids caught wearing helmets from June through August will also be eligible to enter a drawing to win a new bicycle.
Buckle Up, Strongsville
Summer is officially here, and Strongsville Police are reminding residents that more car crashes occur from May to September than any other time of the year.
Remember that being properly restrained is the single best way to reduce risk of injury or death in a motor vehicle crash.
Most parents are careful to restrain younger children, but forget to remind older kids about using their seat belts. What’s more, 1 in 4 Cuyahoga County adults is failing to buckle up themselves. When kids see their parents buckling up every time they get into the car they know that safety is important. By the time they’re old enough to get behind the wheel themselves, buckling up will be a lifelong habit.
Click It Or Ticket runs till June 1. Police in Cuyahoga County will be on the lookout and ticketing those who aren’t buckled up.
An object in motion, without a seat belt, stays in motion and flies through the windshield.
Police Warn Residents of Utility Worker Scam
Strongsville police are warning residents not to let strangers into their homes after a house was burglarized April 15.
The incident is a scam that makes the rounds every year and involves a visitor -- often posing as a contractor -- distracting a resident while an unseen accomplice steals from the home.
In this case, a man claiming to be a utility worker knocked at a resident's door about 4 p.m. and told the woman a nearby septic tank had broken and he had to check her basement for damage.
The man said it was company policy that the resident accompany him to the basement.
Shortly after he left, the woman discovered her jewelry box was open and several pieces were missing. Detective Lt. John Janowski said an accomplice had slipped into the house while the resident was in the basement and grabbed any valuables he could find.
Similar incidents were reported this week in some east-side communities like Wickliffe and Willoughby.
The Strongsville resident never saw the accomplice. The man who came to the door was described as Hispanic and short. He was wearing jeans, a polo shirt and a cap, and was carrying a walkie-talkie.
Janowski said residents who are approached by anyone claiming to be a contractor should not let the person in their house and should call police immediately at (440) 238-7373.
Also, residents should not follow an alleged contractor outside, he said. Con artists also ask residents to accompany them outside to view alleged damage to a roof, tree or fence; once the resident is distracted, an accomplice runs inside and steals valuables.
Think Your Kids are Safe? These Summer Reminders May Save a Life
How long can a child be left in a car on a summer day? Do you know why summer is called “trauma season?” What sends more kids to the hospital than any other non-fatal injury?
Strongsville Police want kids to be safe this summer. That’s why we’re sharing a safety tip sheet with reminders for parents about how to keep children safe, with information on everything from hyperthermia to pools to grills.
Strongsville Police Thank Community for Help Finding Missing Boy
Strongsville Police launched an intensive search late March 19 after a 13-year-old boy with special needs was reported missing from his Collier Drive home.
After the call came in about 10:30 p.m., both the afternoon and night shifts spread out into the neighborhoods and wooded areas to look for the youth. A police dog was called in to search several areas.
Police also put out a reverse 911 call to ask residents in a 2-mile radius to be on the lookout for the boy, which resulted in a number of neighbors joining the search with flashlights, on foot and on bicycles.
Strongsville firefighters also helped, offering the department's Flare Goggles for officers to use in the dark. Firemedics also used their trucks to light dark areas.
On the advice of the firemedics, police activated a countywide search, but before the search team arrived, the boy came out of hiding and rang a doorbell on Winding Trail about 1:12 a.m.
He was returned home safely.
"This is another excellent example of the positive police relationship with our community: working together to find this child," Deputy Chief Mark Fender said. "Our supervisors utilized multiple resources and resulted in the child being found. We are proud of all these officers, dispatchers, firefighters and our community."
Owl Rescued with Help from Passerby, Police and Animal Warden
A motorist called police shortly after midnight March 8 after finding an owl in the middle of Eastland Road. Officers called in Animal Warden Mike Roth, who scooped up the injured barred owl, kept it for the night and took it later that day to the Medina Raptor Center.
Roth said the adult male owl had blood around its eye, and was probably hit by a car. The experts at the Raptor Center said they will treat him with antibiotics, pain medication and an eye ointment, and believe he will recover.
Roth, who also rescued an injured great horned owl last year, said when this owl is healthy again, he will retrieve it from Medina and bring it back to its home in Strongsville for a return to the wild.
“We’ll release it in the same spot we found it,” he said.
Police Arrest Suspect in South-End Burglaries
A 24-year-old Princeton Circle man is facing charges in connection with two home break-ins in February.
Greg Kachmarik, 24, 17890 Princeton Circle, has been indicted on charges of attempted burglary and possession of criminal tools in relation to an attempted break-in on Whispering Pines Feb. 15, and with receiving stolen property in connection with a burglary on Ellsworth Drive Feb. 16.
Police are also looking at a possible connection to two other burglaries in the area, Detective Lt. John Janowski said – one on Princeton Circle Feb. 11 and one on Westminster Drive Feb 17.
Janowski said police were able to trace Kachmarik through stolen items he allegedly pawned at an area shop. A witness in the attempted break-in was also able to identify him, he said.
Police Nab Thief in the Act of Breaking into Vehicles
Some good legwork on the part of two Strongsville police officers led to the arrest of a man believed to have broken into at least 10 vehicles in the Hunting Meadows neighborhood.
A resident on South Meadows Circle called police about 12:30 a.m. Feb. 28 to report a man had walked up his driveway.
Two officers parked on Lanier Avenue and walked through yards, eventually spotting a pickup truck on Hunting Meadows Drive with its interior light on and someone inside. They approached the vehicle to find the suspect trying to remove the stereo, Detective Lt. John Janowski said.
Daniel Vilamaa, 20, of 17036 Hunting Meadows Drive, was taken into custody. Police found in his possession two iPods, a Hungarian $1,000 bill, prescription medication, a folding knife, a small amount of marijuana and a pipe, Janowski said.
Later that day, police executed a search warrant at Vilamaa’s home and found a gun that had been reported stolen from a car on Feb. 23, as well as a laptop computer and other items.
He has been charged with a felony for having the stolen gun, as well as eight misdemeanors – receiving stolen property, trespassing, theft from a yard, criminal damaging, possession of criminal tools, a weapons violation (for the knife), and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Janowski said police recovered several car stereos that have not yet been reported stolen. Anyone missing a car stereo can call police at (440) 580-3230.
Be Aware of the 'Computer Virus' Scam
A Strongsville resident may have recently become a victim of a scam in which a caller offers to "fix" your computer over the phone.
Here's how it works: A caller claims to be from Microsoft or a similar company and says you have a virus on your computer.
He asks you to turn on the computer and walks you through steps to fix it.
"You're actually giving someone access to your computer," Detective Lt. John Janowski said.
The hacker looks for information like passwords and bank account numbers on the hard drive. Even worse, he can install a program that steals new information as you enter it.
If you get a call like that, decline the fix and hang up, no matter how sincere or knowledgeable the caller sounds, Janowski said.
"Don't let anyone have access to your computer," he said.
Police Seek Residents' Help in Tracking Down Burglar
Strongsville Police are asking residents to be on the lookout for a man believed to be responsible for three home break-ins and one attempted burglary in the south part of town since Feb. 11.
The burglaries are taking place during the day. Police say the suspect parks his car, then walks through back yards and breaks in through a rear window.
“We’re asking people to be vigilant,” Deputy Chief Mark Fender said. “Look out your back window, look around when you’re driving in your neighborhood, and if you see a vehicle that doesn’t look like it belongs, call the police.”
To report a suspicious person, call (440) 238-7373.
Police Warn of Overpayment Scam
A Strongsville man sold some chairs on Craigslist.com last month, but got a surprise when the buyer sent the check. Instead of the $400 asking price, the check was for $2,500.
The buyer said it was a mistake and asked the resident to send back the extra money right away.
Good thing he didn’t: It was a scam. In this all-too-common con, a trusting person quickly returns the money – then finds out a few days later the buyer’s check was fraudulent.
“Never send any money from your own account,” Detective Lt. John Janowski warns residents. “Nobody sends that much extra money by mistake.”
IRS Fraud is On the Rise
Last week alone, two Strongsville residents got bad news from the IRS when they sent in their tax returns -- someone else had already filed a return using their Social Security number.
It's a growing problem, the IRS reports. In fiscal year 2013, the IRS initiated 1,492 identity theft-related investigations, an increase of 66 percent over 2012.
On the positive side, indictments and convictions doubled, with the average defendant sentenced to 38 months in prison.
If you believe your identity has been used fraudulently with the IRS, contact the agency to fill out a Form 14039.
Alert employees of Republic Waste Services called police Feb. 5 after noticing that an elderly customer on their route failed to leave her trash cans at the curb.
The workers said the woman never misses putting out her trash and were concerned about her well-being.
Police were able to reach the woman -- and happily, she was fine.